RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has deported more than 60,000 illegal foreign workers in a crackdown over the past fortnight and more are set to follow, Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef said Tuesday.
Police have rounded up tens of thousands of people for deportation since an amnesty for foreign workers to regularise their status expired on November 4.
The campaign has “so far led to the deportation of more than 60,000 violators of the residency and labour system, while procedures are ongoing to deport others,” state news agency SPA quoted Prince Mohammed as saying.
“The campaign will continue… and is not limited to a timeframe,” he added.
Nearly a million migrants, including Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Indians, Nepalis, Pakistanis and Yemenis among them – took advantage of the amnesty to leave voluntarily.
Another four million were able to find employers to sponsor them, a legal requirement in Saudi Arabia as in several other Gulf states.
The Pakistani foreign office had said last week that as many as 54,000 Pakistanis were in the process of resolving their status.
The crackdown on illegals has been marred by clashes that killed four people earlier this month, according to Saudi authorities.
The Ethiopian embassy said three of its nationals had died in clashes.
Among those considered illegal are foreigners who have overstayed their visas, pilgrims who have sought jobs, and migrants seeking work other than for their sponsor.
Expatriates account for a full nine million of the oil-rich kingdom’s population of 27 million.
Despite its huge oil wealth, Saudi Arabia has a jobless rate of more than 12.5 per cent among its citizen population, a figure the government has long sought to cut.